It’s Friday, time to check in with my favorite teen sleuth, Nancy Drew. This week we’re up to volume 18, which was originally titled Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion (Amazon) (AbeBooks), first published in 1941. When the story was rewritten in 1971, the title was changed to Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion (Amazon) (AbeBooks).
From the publisher: “Nancy’s father Carson Drew enlists her help in tracking down a missing heiress, and Nancy, Bess and George stumble upon a mysterious moss-covered mansion. The girls learn someone was murdered near the mansion and they hear strange noises coming from inside the building. Action bounds in this thrilling adventure involving gypsies, a missing heiress, a needy elderly lady, a reclusive artist, an airplane accident, and a forest fire.”
This was my first time reading the Original Text (OT) and was surprised there’s a little violence in Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion (Amazon) (AbeBooks). Nancy beats an attacking dog with a big stick. That’s certainly not something the modern Nancy would do, even if being attacked.
The inn that the young ladies stay at has a bunch of colored servants, who speak in stereotypical fashion. Luckily, this only happens at the beginning of the book or I would have been continually cringing.
Nancy has an oil painting done to give to her father as a birthday gift but it gets damaged en route to the inn in Ashley. Nancy takes some paints and repairs it the best she can, and everyone admires her skills. It’s also revealed that Nancy no longer drives a roadster but has moved up to a sedan.
On page 109, Carson Drew, the guy who is always written about as having a brilliant legal mind, hands over a $52,000 inheritance to a woman named June Campbell even though two people who knew June when she was younger say she has much-changed over the years and aren’t really convinced it’s her.
I’m always happy when Bess and George do some sleuthing of their own instead of just being along for the ride, and do just that in one part of the book.
In what can only be seen as crazy, Nancy and her father need to get to the western part of the state so they book a flight on a commercial liner. The pilot won’t take off because of weather conditions, but that doesn’t stop the Drews! They find a private pilot willing to take off despite the fog, and then he gets hopelessly lost. Flying low to try and see the ground and find a landing place, the plane clips the top of some pine trees and the landing gear is ripped off. The plane makes a crash landing, and despite being separated for a while, Nancy, Carson and the pilot don’t have serious injuries.
It wouldn’t be a Nancy Drew book without her being kidnapped. Despite this, Nancy is soon freed and solves the Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, which has to do with a wild animal artist who just wants to be left alone.
From the publisher: “A friend of Carson Drew’s has been arrested and charged with sending a truck loaded with explosive oranges into the Space Center complex at Cape Kennedy. Knowing that Mr. Billington could not possibly be guilty of sabotage, Nancy and her father rush to the defense of the accused man.
During the Drew’s investigation, Nancy becomes suspicious of an old, spooky mansion. Behind a high, steel-mesh enclosure fierce African wild animals roam over the extensive grounds. Through a ruse the clever teenage detective discovers that something besides the training of wild animals is going on at the mysterious moss-covered mansion estate.”
Finally, there’s a book where Carson Drew admits that he can’t practice law in every state and needs the help of a lawyer in Florida. Even as a kid, I knew that many states make you take the bar exam in order to practice law in their state.
Of course, Ned Nickerson’s parents just happen to have another home on Merritt Island, where the Drews and her chums will be staying. For once, Hannah gets to come along for the trip.
As often happens in the Revised Texts (RT), twice in the early pages of the book, praying or going to church is mentioned. I admit I never thought much about it one way or another as a kid, but I definitely noticed this as an adult.
There’s a vacant house for sale on the island that the Nickersons hope Nancy’s dad will buy (because we all have enough disposable income for two homes and endless trips). The Webster home has many unusual plants and trees, including a “sausage tree” which is a real thing: I had to look it up. And of course, Ned will be visiting soon with Burt and Dave in tow.
Since this book was probably planned right after the moon landing, there’s a great info dump of a lesson on NASA of the day when Nancy and the gang take a tour of the Kennedy Space Center. And wouldn’t you know, they’ll be in town for the next moon shot the next week and Carson Drew snags six press passes for the kids.
There’s a jet airliner crash in the RT which is just as unbelievable as the one in the OT. The landing gear won’t deploy, so the plane has to make a belly landing. The landing strip is prepared with foam, and the pilot lands with no problems. Everyone debarks like it’s no big deal, including Carson Drew and the pilot.
In a rare display, Ned actually kisses Nancy! I do believe this is the first time I’ve read it in the first 18 volumes, either OT or RT, because I know I would have made note of it before. Public affection for the teen sleuth is not something we normally see.
The fat-shaming of Bess doesn’t happen until page 141. I was reading the book and wondering when it would come, and was surprised it came so late in the book because there was much talk of eating throughout. George can be such a jerk with her attitude, but she’s still my favorite character in the series.
On page 159, it takes the combined strength of the animal trainer, Burt and Dave to get the wild cat into the van. Yet when the man gets back to the mansion, he has no problems putting the sedated animal back in it’s cage.
The fact that the bad guys in the moss-covered mansion have a “beamer” aimed at the rocket on the launch pad is just ridiculous. And more ridiculous that Ned can just look at the contraption and know what it is and what it does. It’s called a laser, but apparently in 1971, it’s called a “beamer”. I had to laugh at that.
The main bad guy, Fortin, was a “clever and well-known scientist who had once been connected with NASA. He had become imbued with the ideology of a foreign power and was now using an assumed name.” Crazy. But he is no match for our favorite teen detective and her gang.
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